Fibromyalgia is a disease characterized by chronic widespread pain and tenderness throughout the body. Although the illness is most common among young and middle-aged women, it can affect people of both sexes at any age. Fibromyalgia is characterized by widespread and persistent pain for three or more months, with distribution on both sides of the body. It can affect the spine, paraspinous muscles, the trapezius and even the scapular muscles. Pain is experienced on both the lower and the upper body. Other signs and symptoms include general fatigue and malaise, unrefreshing sleep, anxiety, depression, functional and cognitive impairment among other symptoms.
Due to the widespread nature of the disease, patients suffering from this disease are supposed to be put under intensive care. As a result of their delicate nature, they require adequate societal support. Also, the disease is usually associated with other autoimmune comorbidities, including hypothyroidism, rheumatoid arthritis, systemic lupus erythematosus, cardiac presentations such as angina, palpitations, dyspnea, polymyalgia rheumatic among other inflammatory and autoimmune conditions. These patients require adequate and holistic support as the disease is associated with dysfunction of a variety of systems (Brooks, 2002, p. 573-577).
According to symbolic interaction theory of Sociology, the society is nothing but a realm of reality that people construct as they interact with one another (Graham & White, 2016, p. 270-278). This perspective is crucial when looking at the effect of societal behavior on people with fibromyalgia. Due to the disabling nature of the disease, any form of positive or negative interaction with people suffering from this condition affects the prognosis. Associated conditions of this disease such as systemic lupus erythematosus, cognitive disabilities, and hypothyroidism are associated with depression. Individuals with depression are supposed to be put in constant proper care as they have a high risk of committing suicide. Also, critical parameters in determining the progression of the condition such as adherence to therapeutic measures are affected by people’s attitude towards the patient. This condition does not have a cure, and supportive measures such as lifestyle changes, education on the condition and proper medication can be very helpful in managing the symptomatology.
Proper education on sound management practices is mandatory in managing the condition. Therefore, the close relations and caregivers of the patients are supposed to be well-versed with the disease process, management measures as well as ways of improving the signs and symptoms (Mama et al., 2016, p. 1-12). Since it is a chronic condition, this high-quality care should be consistent and unwavering because any form of laxity may affect the prognosis. Close caregivers need to have sound knowledge on nutrition that will improve the patient’s condition. Promoting good nutrition, vitamin supplementation, bone health and controlling weight loss are some of the best nutritional practices. In some societies that experience food scarcity, increased weight is deemed as a positive thing. However, it should be noted that fibromyalgia is associated with other autoimmune conditions such as hypothyroidism. Hypothyroidism leads to increased weight loss. Additionally, some patients respond to stressful situations by increasing their body weight. In such societies, it will be hard for the caregivers to notice the unfavorable changes in the patient to seek medical help. This delay could cause the patients their lives as medical assistance is sought at a late stage when the disease has heavily progressed. Caregivers are therefore required to stay committed to ensuring the patient has a well-balanced diet in addition to good exercise (Reis et al., 2010, p. 1383-89).
The types of foods consumed in particular societies can affect the disease process of patients with fibromyalgia. Ignorance of the role of proper nutrition on the part of the caregivers can influence the prognosis of the condition. Junk food, which may be associated with a certain status in certain cultures, may be detrimental when dealing with a fibromyalgic patient (Baguma, 2017, p. 23-31).
As noted earlier, this chronic condition is associated with cognitive impairment well as depression. In such a case, patients are required to have regular checkups at psychiatric centers. These patients also need elaborate stress management plans, behavioral and cognitive behavioral therapy plans. Stigma is still a significant impediment to dealing with cognitive issues. Caregivers are supposed to be stigma-free. They should be educated on the metabolic derangement causing these psychiatric manifestations. Stigma affects the willingness of close caregivers to offer support to the patient, which eventually affects the patient’s attitude towards the management of the condition (Martinez-Lavin, 2007, p. 216). Thomas theorem of Sociology asserts that situations that are defined as real are real in their consequences. Active support towards patients with fibromyalgia may as well mean positive management results because of the positive attitude from patients. Just the same way a student performs better in class due to the belief by their teacher that they are gifted, patients tend to respond well to treatment procedures due to the belief that the treatment is working. Since Fibromyalgia has no cure, supportive treatment remains the only alternative presently. However, there is a need for the patient to believe that the palliative measures are helping, for them to adhere to treatment (Gauthier, 2016).
Poor socioeconomic status affects the prognosis of people with fibromyalgia on a broad range of bases. Low socioeconomic status is usually associated with low education levels and low willingness to seek or acquire knowledge. Therefore, the education level of the caregivers is important in determining adherence to treatment as well as the quality of services given to the patient (Eyles & Woods, 2014). Caregivers with a low education level or unwillingness to acquire new knowledge may be unhelpful in controlling fibromyalgia because the disease requires patients and caregiver education. Apart from that, management of fibromyalgia is rigorous and resource-intense. It involved committing more funds towards ensuring that the patients get proper nutrition, appropriate psychiatric and good stress management practices (Navarro & Muntaner, 2016). It is challenging to manage stress when the patient is dealing with economic difficulties such as loss of a job or an income avenue. The situation becomes worse if the patient is the sole breadwinner of the family. In this situation, it will be difficult to manage the psychiatric manifestation of the condition due to the complex nature of the problem. Aside from comorbidities such as cognitive impairment and depression, the patient has to deal with economic challenges, leading to increased stress levels. Stressful situations make people feel anxious, worried and unable to cope, which damages their health and may worsen the prognosis or result in premature death (Dew, Scott & Kirkman, 2016). Stress also invalidates the first step towards management of this condition, which is sleep therapy. These patients need adequate and restorative sleep. The accumulation of these social stressors over time also affects the cognitive ability of an individual leading to worsened mental status in the case of patients with fibromyalgia.
Our social connection with other people is an independent social parameter of health. This includes the strength, quality and extent of our social relationships. Elaborate explanations of the importance of our social connections to the outcome of disease processes can be dated back to Emile Durkheim’s work (Krieger, 2003, p. 659-662). Apart from food, shelter, warmth and material resources, researchers have observed that healthy social connections provide security, belonging, love and other abstract resources needed by human beings for proper growth and development. The development of close social relationships between an individual with their close ones is crucial in some circumstances such as during illness. In ill health, patients need as much support as they can get; therefore, individuals with good social connection feel better supported than isolated patients. The Attachment theory explains that secure attachments during infancy and childhood meet a universal human need for the development of strong affective bonds (Fox & Alldred, 2016, p. 287-93). These strong bonds are particularly helpful when dealing with the stigma associated with various conditions. In this light, patients with fibromyalgia enjoy a better disease management process if they have a better social connection due to its close association with psychiatric conditions (Banwell, Dixon & Ulijaszek, 2013).
There are two focal social variables of particular interest when elaborating social relationships. These are social support and social networks. Social networks refer to the web of individual-centered social ties. This variable assesses the structural element of social relationships, which include the size of in the network, density (the degree of connection among members of a social circle) and homogeneity (the degree of similarity among the members of the social network) (Albrecht et al, 2017, p. 551-556). Its assessment may also involve aspects such as the level of reciprocity, the number of times members keep contact and the duration these members have stayed connected. Social support is a term that engulfs a variety of assistance that individuals belonging to a particular social group get from their peers. This assessment is also divided into three types, which include emotional, informational and instrumental support. Instrumental support includes the tangible support an individual gets from their social circle members. Examples of instrumental support include labor, cash grants and loans among other forms. Emotional support, on the other hand, includes important intangible support forms received from social group members that help an individual feel more appreciated and loved. These initiatives include talking about problems and boosting confidence (Watson, Crawley & Kane, 2016, p. 96-102). Informational support is valuable information shared among members of a social circle aimed at helping each other. These include information on diet and financial information, among other pieces of advice. All these forms of support are necessary to a patient as they help them feel reassured (McNamara, 2017, p.1-17).
In conclusion, patients with fibromyalgia require intensive support. Their social and cultural environment is important in determining the prognosis and outcome of the disease management. Patients in a favorable environment such as a supportive and educated caregiver, closer social connections and favorable socioeconomic circumstances have increased treatment success compared to patients dealing with an unfavorable environment. The fact that fibromyalgia is closely associated with mental manifestations makes these social and cultural variables important in the management of the condition.
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